INDEPENDENCE, Ohio – The Celtics drafted Jayson Tatum in June, a wing forward who the franchise envisions growing along with second-year wing Jaylen Brown.
They signed Gordon Hayward to a four-year, $127.8 million max contract just a couple weeks later, a string of moves that left Jae Crowder unsure of what his role (if any) with the franchise was going forward.
“There was some concern because you have a lot of wing players stacked up,” Crowder admitted. “And I made it clear to the organization that I was concerned about it and wanted some direction. They showed me what they wanted to do and I respected it.”
Crowder was part of the four-player trade which sent himself, along with Isaiah Thomas and Ante Zizic, to Cleveland with the Celtics getting Kyrie Irving in return.
While most of the focus on the trade centered around the Thomas-Irving component of the deal, the addition of Crowder gives the Cavaliers a dimension at both ends of the floor that they need as they set their sights on continuing as the team to beat in the East.
“His on-court, off-court plus-minus is at a high level,” said Cavs general manager Koby Altman. “He contributes to winning at an extremely high level. That’s why we value him to that extent. He also brings a tough, gritty attitude defensively, [he'll] pick up the best player. He’s a core piece to this Cavaliers team going forward.”
MORE ON THE TRADE:
- Isaiah on free agency: "I'm going to get what I deserve"
- VIDEO - I.T.: "This trade woke me up."
- VIDEO - I.T. on Brad Stevens: "He allowed me to be great."
According to NBA.com/stats, Crowder’s net rating (offensive rating minus defensive rating) last season was +7.8, second only to Amir Johnson, (the ex-Celtic now with the Philadelphia 76ers) whose net rating was 8.0.
Even more telling was what happened when Crowder was not on the floor.
The Celtics had a net rating of -3.9, which was the largest drop off by any Celtic last season when they were on the bench. Those are the kind of numbers that speak to just how valuable Crowder was at both ends of the floor last season.
Crowder’s value can be seen in many ways, with his toughness often standing out above all else. No time was it more on display than Aug. 22, the day he was traded, which also coincided with the death of his mother.
I asked Crowder about that day at his Cavaliers' introductory press conference on Thursday that also included Thomas and Zizic.
“There was a lot going on that day, obviously,” Crowder said. “The good thing about the whole ordeal was I was able to whisper it to my mom (Helen Thompson, 51) before she passed. I was with her. I just told her, 'We're going to Cleveland.' Five minutes later, she passed."
The pain of losing his mother will not subside anytime soon, but Crowder has shown throughout his career a resiliency to weather whatever storms come his way.
And while his playing time will likely take a dip in Cleveland, Crowder seems in a better place not only to play steady minutes with the Cavs but compete for the ultimate prize – an NBA title.
“That day [of the trade] was tough, but it was a good day for myself, for my basketball career, to move on to an organization like this, like the Cleveland Cavaliers, to put myself in a position to play for it all,” Crowder said. “I couldn't ask myself for nothing else. I was thankful for Boston, for everything they've done for me, and for trading me to a team like this. I was thankful for the opportunity. But that day was pretty wild."
Crowder, a former second-round pick from Marquette entering his sixth NBA season, averaged career highs in several categories last season with the Celtics, including minutes played (32.4), field- goal percentage (.463), 3-point percentage (.398), rebounds (5.8) and assists (2.2).